Walmart's terrifying shopping cart design measures your speed and heart rate

Walmart will know exactly how thrilled you are by its prices.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
2 min read
Empty Shopping Cart Against Yellow Wall

Even when it's empty, your shopping cart might know everything about you. 

Prasatporn Nilkumhaeng/Getty

Gone are the days of running into a store to grab a quick carton of milk. Now retailers want to track every element of your experience in their stores, from your spending habits, to your location and now even your heart rate.

Walmart  is trying to patent a design for a "biometric feedback cart handle" on a shopping cart that could measure a shopper's heart rate, temperature, speed and the amount of force they apply to the handle as they walk around a store.

The patent application, submitted Aug. 23 to the US Patent and Trademark Office and spotted by Motherboard, shows the cart would first measure "baseline" biometric data and then compare data at different points in a shopping visit to this baseline.

The data would then be relayed back to a central server and, if it indicated the shopper was "not satisfied," the central server would send an alert to a shop assistant to go and help the customer.


A 100 percent real diagram in Walmart's patent showing how the new biometric shopping cart would work.

Walmart patent

It's a sign of how smart our stores are becoming, and just how much data retailers want to collect. Shopping centres are already using Bluetooth beacons to track customers around stores, and new technologies like gaze detection could even tell companies what's grabbing our attention in a window display or how we feel about a product lineup.

For Walmart, which is investing in blockchain to track food suppliers and which has already patented technology to eavesdrop on customers in stores, it's another sign that retail is changing.

Who knows what the future holds? Targeted advertising to get you in-store for Walmart's next big sale and then a shopping trolley that knows exactly how fast you run to grab the bargain?

Clarification, Oct. 10 at 5:53 a.m. PT: Walmart is waiting for the USPTO's response to its application.

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